Book & Film Reviews


Villain is an adaptation of a novel by Shuichi Yoshida, the story involves a young woman who sometimes meets strangers through a dating website, she is found dead but who is the killer? is it the slick rich playboy Masuo (Maskai Okada) or the blonde haired outsider Yuichi (Satoshi Tsumabuki) who looks as though he has just walked off the set of Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.

This film for the most part avoids genre trappings, it's not a tired police procedural or a "They Live By Night" style noir although there are elements of noirish amour fou. Neither is it a film about vengeance a path that could have been easily taken by some of the peripheral characters. What it is is a seductive and vibrant arthouse drama that whilst being 139mins long is a quick "long" movie (as opposed to a slow short one Norwegian Ninja springs to mind - 70 odd minutes long but felt like 2 hours) that is always unfolding in unexpected ways.

Villain is a hybrid movie - one part crime drama and two parts character study, in one sense we are studying the archetypes and place our own judgements on them, our judgement is either rewarded if we guessed right or punished if we assumed too little or too much. Director Sang-Il Lee gives us just enough information or rope to hang ourselves and then waits for us to be absorbed into the whodunnit aspect before a series of reversals fall like a domino effect. It's a neat trick that has some parallels with Confessions (2010 - Tetsuya Nakashima) it seems irony is making a big comeback.

The direction is cool, calm and calculated - there are no unnecessary shots, no quickfire edits or flashy camera moves just studied scientific observation of the kind David Cronenberg would be proud of. Eri Fukatsu steals the movie from everyone else, even though she is introduced quite late in the game helping a businessman choose a suit and then being undercut by his wife her reaction and character are worthy of the work of the Dardenne brothers. Fukatsu has done lots of TV work (22 titles on imdb) and varioues features, she's just shot a comedy for director Koki Mitani but I'd much rather see her in leading dramatic roles. In Villain she emotes like a pre-raphaelite heroine but without overdoing it, no easy feat. if she found her Zhang Yimou she could become this decade's Gong Li - high praise indeed. 4/5

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